Michel Bauwens: Commoning is not inherently inclusive, and neither are initiatives such as ecovillages that have some relation to commoning. The natural resource commons described by Ostrom were often communautarian and reflected the accepted gender and class typologies and expectations of the day. Ecovillages and landed common initiatives may require initial investments that filter participants and contributory projects may attract specific groups of people and not others.
Researchers like Ana Margarida Esteves have looked at the inclusion/exclusion drivers of commoning projects and here she brings a study on how the Tamera ecovillage, originally attracting German counter-cultural expats, originally was not connected to the local context but has recently undertaken efforts to increase their local rootedness. As she writes: “In my article I also show how Tamera is overcoming that segregationalism through cultural mediation, institutionalization of dialogue and a special fund to support the participation of Portuguese people in their engagements. They are also becoming a very significant player in the Portuguese anti-fracking and anti-oil drilling movement. They are also participating in feminist and pro-Palestinian circles.”
The French researcher Genevieve Fontaine is looking into the commons as ‘commons of capabilities’ and has added 3 extra criteria to add to the 8 criterias of commons governance proposed by Ostrom. In effect, Genevieve Fontaine is looking at a synthesis between the commons and the capabilities approach. These and other avenues show that the inclusion agenda is coming to the attention of commoners and commons-researchers.
This article sheds light on the exclusionary dynamics that emerge when the construction of commons-based alternative political ecologies does not take political economy considerations into account. It analyses the relationship between Tamera – Healing Biotope I, and the ecosystem, population and institutions of the region of southwestern Alentejo, Portugal, where this ecovillage is located. Tamera is based on a prefigurative process of “commoning”, transplanted from Central European counter-culture, which created a “borderland” that spatially segregates and at the same time creates a point of contact between two contrasting cultural, ecological and socio-economic realities. However, maintaining the “borderland” granted the community access to the resources needed to develop its vision, while countering existing regulations, although eventually involving the state in the development of a new regulatory framework. Since the mid- 2000s, Tamera has been engaging in cultural dialogue with the local population, with the support of the municipality. The analysis raises the question of how to develop regulatory and financial instruments that support ecovillages in promoting inclusive strategies of economic sustainability, integrating them in place-based dynamics of regional development. The specificities of their biophysical and social processes must be taken into account, as well as their vocation as “testfields” for sustainability.